They were leaving the Weaver hall — where Inri's visit was half diplomatic-and-Weyr-business and half personal — when they ran into a young gentleman in his mid-twenties that briefly made Inri startle. The conversation was short, sweet and brief, and when she was a-dragonback again, Kouzevelth made no effort to pry.

Not yet, anyway.

Not until they were back at home, and then she was back to her usual self: poking around the recesses of Inri's mind, trying to find what it was that was bothering her, what it was that had made her startle so. To make trouble, in her way. Everything of Inri's also belonged to Kouzevelth, after all: every thought, every memory.

It was only too bad her rider didn't agree. And when she wouldn't allow her to just take the information, the dragon pushed, as any dragon might, but especially a queen:

« Who was that? »

"Oh, stop," Inri sighed, shaking her head and sitting down on the bed for a moment, in the midst of folding clothes. "It doesn't matter, does it? Look at all the nice things we got, isn't that a better focus —"

In someone else, it would seem a total blatant redirect, but when it came to things like fashions Inri really was quite serious about it being an important topic. And normally, Kozuevelth would indulge that.

Not today.

Not when curiosity touched at the end of her mind so — not when Inri would hide something from her. Which was so unlike her rider, who did things right, the way she commanded them to be.

« No, » the dragon corrected, « you are going to tell me who that was. »

Inri protested once, twice more, and then finally gave in. Kouzevelth knew that when she was eighteen she'd come to the Weyr to get out of an uncomfortable social situation; that she'd gotten pregnant and even her own family didn't know; that sometimes she grieved what was, but if she had had that baby she would never have had her lifemate. And that was enough for Kouzevelth, always had been. She had her own children, after all — even if she thought it was imperative that Inri have at least one.

("But I wouldn't even have time to care for it," was always her soft protestation, not that it meant much, because a Holder girl like Inri would always, at some level, want for a family. Kouzevelth would point out that Velokraeth's had time for his hatchling, despite how busy his work was, and Inri would give up.)

This time it wasn't enough, because this time —

« He was very handsome, » Kouzevelth said, and didn't try for 'wasn't he?' Of course she wasn't really sure, didn't know human standards of good looks, didn't care. But for once she was being conversational: being that thing Inri needed so often that she didn't have. A friend. To just talk to. To be carefree with. Sometimes Kouzevelth was her only confidant, and was definitely the only one interested in talking to her about this issue. Since Dtirae's departure, Inri didn't really have anyone she could lean on in the same way. « You could try again. »

"Zel —"

She was talking so much. And it was so rare that she was so inclined toward words! At least when she did speak, though, the words were still simple. So unlike her parents.

« No? Maybe with someone else. » Thinly lined with disappointment, even if perhaps she didn't like that one so much either — he was from so far away. « We are not Senior, » she reminded Inri, and left out the implied and we likely never will be. Nyalle and Kayeth were young. They would be Senior as long as Inri and Kouzevelth, the older pair, could possibly suit the job. And so wasn't it perfectly sensible for them to settle in and do some things for themselves? They wouldn't have any stepping up to do anytime soon.

"That doesn't mean anything. I'm the only competent Junior here. That could last for a long time. And it isn't as if I have anyone to settle down with, I'd like to point out to you."

Maybe that was a sore spot. She'd screwed so many things up with so many people, and there'd been so many potential relationships that had fallen by the wayside because of her — not taking things seriously. Or not wanting to push when she wasn't sure if something was there, innocently flirting back when flirting was handed out, but not taking a step further. Kh'nai. D'ani. She had failed by not saying the right thing at the right time, not making the right connections. And then the issue of Ezra, who got more attractive every day, but — they would never be suited to each other, be it the age difference or the job difference, and she loved him to pieces but couldn't love him in that way.

« Dremkoth's could still suit you. »

Inri groaned.

« He will catch me again. »

"You don't know that and that is not fair. Besides, Dtirae —"

« Would forgive you, as she is not actually here. And he left her. »

"Technically, she kind of screwed it up too. Maybe they weren't well suited. Which does not mean he and I are."

« Do you know, » Kouzevelth pressed so firmly Inri pushed parts of her mind closed again, « if he was not interested in her as much because he was instead interested in you? » Of course she was utterly bluffing. Inri would call her on it if she had the energy to it, not having the interest in enduring another one of these conversations. Sometimes she wished Dremkoth had caught Kayeth, just to keep this particular conversation away from her as long as possible, though she'd hate to dump that level of work on her clutchmate when he didn't want it.

And at least Fort had stability in its Weyrleader. Through three queens. Whatever grumbling Kouzevelth made about non-Fortian leaders, it seemed like Velokraeth was the most settled of them all.

Not that Kayeth would be going anywhere for a long time.

Thank Faranth.

Not actually answering the question got Kouzevelth to finally forget she was harping so hard on the idea of Inri getting pregnant, and the goldrider finally got a chance to get back to putting things away. Eventually the sounds of her grumbling became drowned out by the sounds of soft rainfall and contemplating something else.

Hopefully she'd rise soon, and then she'd stop torturing Inri about having a family of her own.